Men's Basketball | Tufts loses weekend games in St. Louis
Published: Monday, December 3, 2012
Updated: Monday, December 3, 2012 07:12
The focus for the men’s basketball coming out of last week’s showdown against top-ranked MIT was on staying focused for a full 40 minutes of gametime.
Apparently, though, that message has yet to hit home. After blowing two late leads in both their games in the Lopata Classic in St. Louis this past weekend, the men’s basketball team is sitting at a disappointing 3-5 on the year.
The weekend started off with a game against No. 7 Illinois Wesleyan, who provided the Jumbos with their second straight challenge from a top-10 team. Though the Jumbos have not had such a tough non-conference schedule in years past, facing top competition is starting to become the norm for the team.
“We knew we could compete with them, because we had just played with the best team in the country,” sophomore guard C.J. Moss said. “Our main thing for this game was just to play as hard as we could for all 40 minutes of the game.”
Against MIT, the Jumbos allowed the opposition to get out to a quick start, and were forced to play catch-up the rest of the game. Friday was a different story, as Tufts kept the game close all the way through the first half. The Jumbos countered every Illinois Wesleyan basket with one of their own.
With eight minutes to play in the first half, the Titans went on a 10-5 run to push their lead up to nine. However, the Jumbos, behind five points from junior forward Tommy Folliard, went on a 7-2 run of their own to close out the half and keep the game close.
“When we played well, we did a lot of things right,” Moss said. “We held on to the ball, we executed well, defensively we got stops, we boxed out and we got rebounds.”
Coming into the second half, the Jumbos refused to take their foot of the pedal.
“We were all excited [in the locker room], but we didn’t forget that there was still a lot of time left and they were a very good team,” senior co-captain forward Scott Anderson said. “We knew we had to come out of half time and hit them in the face first.”
Four 3-pointers from sophomore guard Ben Ferris, along with six points and six rebounds from Anderson in the second half was the momentum behind a powerful punch from the Jumbos. After a jumper from Folliard with seven minutes to go, Tufts had its largest lead of the game, 56-48.
From there though, they were unable to stave off the Titans counterattack. They went on an 11-3 run to tie the game with three minutes to go, and even tough a three from Ferris put Tufts back on top 62-59, three free throws from the Titans tied the game back up with two minutes to play.
Finally, a layup from senior center Kevin Reed with a little over one minute to go put the Titans up, and from there they cruised to a 72-61 win. As the clock wound down, head coach Bob Sheldon was given back to back technical foul calls and was ejected with 26.9 seconds left to play.
“Once they got a couple buckets, we got nervous,” Moss said. “Once we got nervous, we stopped playing our defense, and then they started scoring. And once they started scoring, we started rushing things on offense, and then they just jumped on us and really killed us.”
With the loss, Tufts was relegated to the consolation game on Saturday, and a matchup with Wilmington College. However, the energy for the team was not quite the same.
“[Our morale] was lowered, to be honest,” Anderson said. “We thought we deserved that win and we let it slip away. No one wants to play in a consolation game.”
Wilmington was able to take advantage of a frustrated Tufts’ team and jumped out to an early 7-0 lead. However, Tufts stormed right back with seven points of their own, and the teams spent the rest of the first half going back and forth, with a buzzer beater putting Wilmington up 31-30 to end the half.
The second half, for the first nine minutes, looked the same as the first, with the score tied 44-44 with 11 minutes to go. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Moss put Tufts up 4, and the Jumbos continued to cling to a slim lead until a lay-up put the Quakers up 1, 60-59 with under three minutes to play. However, Moss returned the favor to give the Jumbos the lead.
But in the last two minutes, Wilmington rattled off seven straight points to give them a 67-61 win, and send the Jumbos home with the weight of two blown leads.
“Once again, we played well for a good 35 minutes, and then the last five minutes of the game we just choked,” Moss said.
“It was tough. We really need to buckle down and play even more disciplined at the end of the game,” Anderson added. “Instead, we tend to get flustered. We need to learn to settle down, play our game and trust in our teammates and the system.”
Despite now riding a three-game losing streak, there is still cause for optimism, as two of those losses have come against top-10 teams, and no loss has been by more than 10 points. The team is focusing now on how to close out games late, as they know that each of their losses has been decided by a couple of missed plays at the end of games.
“Late in the game, whether we’re up by eight or down by eight, everybody needs to step up,” Moss said. “Individuals just need to execute the offense, play tough defense, whatever it is, they just have to do it to the best of their abilities.”